AAAI Publications, Twenty-First IAAI Conference

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Practical Attacks Against Authorship Recognition Techniques
Michael Robert Brennan, Rachel Greenstadt

Last modified: 2009-04-09


The use of statistical AI techniques in authorship recognition (or stylometry) has contributed to literary and historical breakthroughs. These successes have led to the use of these techniques in criminal investigations and prosecutions.  However, few have studied adversarial attacks and their devastating effect on the robustness of existing classification methods. This paper presents a framework for adversarial attacks including obfuscation attacks, where a subject attempts to hide their identity imitation attacks, where a subject attempts to frame another subject by imitating their writing style.  The major contribution of this research is that it demonstrates that both attacks work very well.  The obfuscation attack reduces the effectiveness of the techniques to the level of random guessing and the imitation attack succeeds with 68-91% probability depending on the stylometric technique used.  These results are made more significant by the fact that the experimental subjects were unfamiliar with stylometric techniques, without specialized knowledge in linguistics, and spent little time on the attacks. This paper also provides another significant contribution to the field in using human subjects to empirically validate the claim of high accuracy for current techniques (without attacks) by reproducing results for three representative stylometric methods.


Stylometry; Neural Networks; Machine Learning; Security

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